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County gets ready for government transition

December 21, 2013
By CASEY CROUCHER , The Leader Herald

FONDA - Preparing for the start of Montgomery County's new government Jan. 1, County Executive-elect Matt Ossenfort listened Thursday to department heads, other employees and members of the incoming new legislature talk about issues and goals.

"I think we can start to create a culture without an ego in this county, where it doesn't matter who gets the credit and whose idea it was; bottom line is we're making progress moving this county forward. That's my goal," Ossenfort said.

In less than two weeks, the county's government will transition from a 15-member Board of Supervisors to a nine-member legislature with a county executive.

Article Photos

Montgomery County Executive-elect Matt Ossenfort speaks to people attending Thursday’s Montgomery County government transitional meeting at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
The Leader-Herald/Casey Croucher

Ossenfort assembled Thursday's transitional meeting at Fulton-Montgomery Community College so he could get everyone on the same page.

"We have challenges," he said. "I sort of look at them as opportunities ... as far as I'm concerned, the campaigns are over, we leave the politics at the door. This is about doing what's best for the county."

At the beginning of the meeting, he asked department heads to tell him what specific issues they had and how the county should resolve them.

Daniel Colon, the county's data processing director, told Ossenfort his department is dealing with outdated infrastructure. He said old equipment is supposed to be replaced every three to five years, but the county continues to use them for 10 to 12 years.

Colon said wiring in the county Annex Building, where his department is located, is unreliable and the building is the closest county facility to the river.

"We just can't meet the growing demand that people need in terms of technology ... We just can't keep up with everything," Colon said.

Sheriff Michael Amato said his department is "burned out." This year, he said, the department made 1,000 arrests with seven fewer deputies than were employed in the past.

Paul Clayburn, Public Works Department commissioner, said over the last five years, his department has lost about 20 of its 75 employees. He said he's expected to maintain the same level of productivity, but it's difficult.

"Economic times have been bad," Clayburn said. "If I've heard it once over the last 10 years, I bet I've heard it a million times, that we have to do more with less. Unfortunately, it gets to the point where you're doing less with less."

Aside from the county's laundry list of issues, members of Thursday's meeting were optimistic, especially when discussing the county's economic development.

Economic Development Director Kenneth Rose said the county's industry has improved recently with the sale of the old Beech-Nut facility in Canajoharie. He said other projects also are in the beginning stages.

However, Rose said a lot of the economic growth in areas such as Saratoga County is the result of state funding, which Montgomery County lacks.

"We've always been the ugly stepchild of the state. No one really pays much attention to this area," Rose said. "Hopefully, that's going to change with the county executive position; we have the guy that's going to go down and pound the drums in Albany for us."

Ossenfort stressed the importance of economic growth in this area. He said that without more growth, many projects never will be done.

"I hate to say no to you, Sheriff and Paul [Clayburn]. If we don't get some economic growth, I'll have to say no to your departments," Ossenfort said.

He said a successful transition won't be possible without communication and optimism.

"We have to keep this sense of optimism, and it'll go a long way," he said.

Ossenfort said he plans to assemble another transitional meeting in January.



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